As I’m writing my book on the Mountains -to-Sea Trail, I noted that the MST will be 35 years old. Yes, in 1977, Howard N. Lee, then Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, proposed a state trail that would go through North Carolina. At the time, he said that it would be more than 450 miles. Hah! Little did he know that it would turn out to be almost 1000 miles.
Lee announced this at the Fourth National Trails Symposium, a conference held at Lake Junaluska Sept. 7 to 10, 1977. But exactly which day?
For that, I had to go to the Asheville-Buncombe Library and dig into microfilm of the then Asheville Citizen. I remember microfilm from my graduate school days. The text zipped around like a roller coaster, giving me a headache. The print was small and gray. But it seems that even microfilm has improved over the years. More importantly, reference librarians have improved. Zoe, of the NC Collection, set up the microfilm at the starting date and showed me that I could go through the newspaper real slow.
And I found it. Actually, I found four articles about the conference. Would the newspaper publish four articles about a trails conference today?
The relevant one covered Howard Lee’s speech which occurred on Friday evening September 9, 1977. That is our date.
In his remarks, Lee said that ” I would depend upon 99 per cent of the trail to be established through the cooperation of state, federal and local agency landowners and the assistance of individual and corporate landowners willing to give an easement over a portion of their land as a legacy to future generations.”
But microfilm is addictive and I have to mention other resolutions at that conference. The conference called for the accelerated completion of the Appalachian Trail and endorsed what is now the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
So on Sunday September 9, 2012, the MST will be 35 years old. Go out and celebrate by walking a stretch of trail.